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Gen2 - The True Status and Path Forward

In this guest article, Mike Guillory discusses the progress of Gen2 technology through the International Standards Organization (ISO).
Tags: Standards
Oct 21, 2005This article was originally published by RFID Update.

October 21, 2005—The term "Gen2" has been known to stir an emotional response in many participants in the supply chain these days. While most have a general idea the terms refers to the "latest generation" of RFID technology being developed to support the explosive growth and application of wireless automation in the open supply chain, there is also much confusion. Gen2 is not a brand of RFID technology. It is not exclusive to any one company, organization or technology provider. Simply put, Gen2 represents the latest evolutionary cycle of passive RFID technology being applied in the open supply chain.

This "new generation" of passive RFID technology was driven by the need to meet broad use of RFID in item management on a global scale. Primary in concern was the need to maximize performance across a very demanding set of regulatory requirements. These requirements focused on the need for long range (> 3 meters) and fast read rates (> 500 tags per second). This led to the use of the portion of the UHF spectrum defined as 860 to 960 MHz. This broad band was required to deal with the widely disparate spectrum allocations throughout various regions of the world.

Experience gained through "earlier" generations of passive RFID technology proved invaluable in devising radio communication techniques that could meet user requirements while respecting global radio rules. Technology providers that worked in both the original ISO standards as well as those that participated in the work of the Auto-ID Center efforts collaborated in Gen2. EPCglobal provided a forum for this collaboration which resulted in what has now come to be known as the EPCglobal Class 1 Generation 2 UHF Air Interface Protocol (i.e. Gen2).

The collective work of the industry's leading RFID technology providers was captured in the EPCglobal standard ratified in late December 2004. But work still remained to refine this definition among the larger audience of the global community though ISO. While significant experience and technology as developed in the initial ISO/IEC 18000-6 (860 – 960 MHz) found its way into the Gen2 specification, it was clear this "new generation" of the technology would need to be represented as different from the existing "Type A" and "Type B" that currently existed in that specification.

Thus, the Gen2 technology has begun its review and refinement through the ISO amendment process. A draft amendment of ISO/IEC 18000-6 representing the Gen2 technology as "Type C" moved through the initial ballot (PDAM – Proposed Draft Amendment) in May of this year. It should be noted that though that initial ballot passed with "no negatives", there were more than 175 comments submitted by the various reviewing National Bodies. At first blush this might not seem a positive result, but quite to the contrary it demonstrates the intense interest in the Gen2 technology moving into ISO.

The comments were successfully resolved in a Ballot Resolution Meeting (BRM) held in Singapore in June. The draft amendment was modified to reflect the consensus of the international community and was then submitted for review and the second ballot (FPDAM – Final Proposed Draft Amendment). This ballot is currently open with closure scheduled for early November. Any received comments will follow the same procedure as those received during the first ballot and will be resolved through a BRM currently scheduled for the end of November. It is fully expected that the refined draft will pass this international review successfully and will only result in minor comments that will contribute to a more complete and mature specification.

The draft amendment of ISO/IEC 18000-6 Type C -- i.e., Gen2 -- will then move to the final review and ballot (FDAM – Final Draft Amendment). This will likely occur in January 2006 and is a 2-month ballot. Assuming a successful result (all indications are positive), we will have a published ISO standard representing Gen2 technology (ISO/IEC 18000-6 Type C) at the end of Q1 2006. This is a significant milestone for the global market. With such a standard in place, multiple applications (both EPC and non-EPC) will be able to use the same RFID data carrier technology without conflict and on a global basis.

Just as importantly, with such an international standard in place, compliant products will be available from multiple providers. In fact, many of the leading Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC) technology providers have embraced RFID and are aggressively working on Gen2 technology-based products. While it has been a long road to reach this point in market development, it is very encouraging to see credible technology moving into product realization which will meet user needs.

The efforts of many parties have contributed to the establishment of the Gen2 "foundation" as represented in the current maturing global standards. Such standards pave the way for collaborative industry efforts resulting in interoperable products that meet user requirements.
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